The ash that’s left after incinerating garbage is not pleasant to look at or smell, but it’s still very valuable. How? The massive furnace leaves behind metal, including coins. It turns out that we throw away a lot of coins, as well as the occasional diamond ring Chuck E. Cheese’s token.
Just one trash incinerator near Philadelphia pulls around $360,000 in coins alone out of the mass of burned metal. How do they do that? The facility’s operator, Covanta, spent $70 million on magnets and other equipment for sifting through trash that’s been incinerated, getting back tens of millions every year in recovered scrap metal that’s sold to other companies even when the U.S. Mint isn’t buying burned-up coins.
See, Covanta can’t just go dump the blackened coins in the nearest Coinstar machine: they turn them in at the U.S. Mint (conveniently located in Philadelphia) as part of a program to get back and melt down damaged coins. That program has been on hold for almost a year due to problems with counterfeit currency, and the incinerator is just piling up coins to be turned in when it comes back.
Calculating based on the amount of coins that it pulls from the trash in its own facilities, Covanta estimates that the nationwide tally of coins that end up in the trash is around $61.8 million per year. Be careful when cleaning out your pockets, people!
by Laura Northrup via Consumerist